Scientist’s are not certain why those with Alzheimer’s often have sleep problems. It may be the changes taking place within their brain are affecting their sleep-wake cycle or the production of melatonin, a hormone important for getting to sleep and staying there. In extreme cases, those with Alzheimer’s may completely reverse their sleep pattern and remain asleep during the day and awake in the evening.
Whatever the cause or condition, there are certain actions you can take, as the family caregiver, to help your parent with Alzheimer’s get a better night’s sleep.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) strongly encourages trying non-drug measures first in helping your parent’s sleep problems. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Studies have found that sleep medications generally do not improve overall sleep quality for older adults. Use of sleep medications is associated with a greater chance of falls and other risks that may outweigh the benefits of treatment.”
Rituals and Routine
Help your parent establish a daily ritual and routine. The world of someone living with Alzheimer’s can seem to change on a daily basis. A routine is both comforting to their emotions and to their physical body. This consists of regular times for waking and going to bed, a light meal at dinner, and a bed time snack. Tryptophan has been shown to help induce sleep and can be found in foods such as turkey, eggs, cheese, nuts and seeds.
An Active Day
Like most people, a day spent in front of the television will not produce a restful sleep at day’s end. Help your aging parent remain active during the day by scheduling activities that are easy for them to partake in. They may no longer do well in a crowded mall, but they may enjoy a stroll through the local botanical gardens or a picnic in the park.
Make sure they’re getting 30 minutes of exercise most days. Be sure to schedule it at least four hours before bedtime. To stimulate the production of vitamin D and their sleep-wake cycle, make sure they get at least 10 minutes of direct sunlight every day. For those of you in colder climates, there are special light therapy boxes that mimic outdoor light and help regulate the body’s sleeping and waking cycles. Check with your parent’s primary health care provider before initiating.
A Calm Evening
Relaxing evening rituals tell the body it’s time to wind down. This could be a relaxing mineral bath with a few drops of essential oils. If your parent is not a bath taker, consider reading a chapter or two from one of their favorite books while sipping on herbal tea and listening to soothing music in the background.
The idea is to keep them “gently” active during this time of day. It helps their mind from wandering to places that are fear-producing and instills a sense of safety. If your parent is taking a cholinesterase inhibitor such as tacrine, donepezil or galantamine, avoid giving it to them at bedtime. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and nicotine.
If you or an aging loved one are considering Caregiver Services in Waukegan IL, please contact the caring staff at Big Hearts Home Care today!